Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘The Protected’

Book Review: “One Would Think the Deep” by Claire Zorn, University of Queensland Press (2016)


I commenced reading Claire Zorn’s novel One Would Think the Deep from a strange little place I like to call ‘fearful anticipation’.  Zorn’s last book The Protected was a multi-award winning novel.  Having had the opportunity to read an advance copy of this I was not surprised.  I honestly believe that what Zorn penned in this book was nothing short of a masterpiece; in fact it is a story with the kind of longevity that will entertain YA readers for a very long time.  It follows then, that I was both excited and fearful about the opportunity to review her latest offering.

As a piece of retro fiction, Zorn begins her story New Year’s Day 1997.  Perhaps I am just getting old but this really doesn’t seem all that long ago.  Of course, I do remember this rather nostalgically as being that wonderful time before the internet had really taken off and before mobile phones were commonplace (and if you did have one you were either really rich or a drug dealer).   Like Zorn, I remember the time for its music.  It was a period when cd’s were expensive and you waited with bated breath for the latest import from your local indie record store.

Sam Hudson, a skater from inner city Sydney, moves to live by the coast with his Aunt Lorraine and cousins Minty and Shane following the sudden death of his mother. He brings with him an understandable amount of emotional baggage which too often manifests itself as violence.  This is a sensitive story about love, the fragmentation of family and the pain of grief.

As with Zorn’s other novels, the narrative is driven by sensitively composed language and a cast of memorable characters.  In fact, the real strength of this story is in the unforgettable cast of minor characters, especially Aunty Lorraine, who feels like she might be straight out of an episode of Struggle Street, the deeply complex and equally troubled Ruby and his surfie, slash bogan, cousins, Minty and Shane.  There is certainly enough material here for another three or four novels should Zorn wish to explore them.

One Would Think the Deep is a skilfully crafted novel that will resonate with readers from the upper end of the middle years through to senior students.  While it was an engaging read, and while I applaud Zorn again for her mastery as a storyteller, unlike The Protected, it never quite took me to that exceedingly rare place that truly remarkable novels do.

Tanya Grech Welden

Boomerang Book Winners for the Year 2014

Claire ZornI love books so much that it is nearly impossible for me to choose favourites.  However, I for the purposes of this blog (and because it may be useful for my audience of teachers and students) I am going to try very hard to play favourites.  Early January each year I plan to evaluate the books from the previous year, identifying those that I have found most enjoyable and, more importantly, the ones that are most useful in terms of their educational merit in the classroom.  I am going to call these the “Boomerang Awards”, since these are the titles which I am most likely to go back to time and time again as a teacher.

Overall “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”

Without a doubt the best book I read in 2014 was an awesome title published by University of Queensland Press.  The Protected, written by Aussie author Claire Zorn is a gorgeous contemporary set in the rural setting of the Blue Mountains.  It tells the story Hannah, who struggles to  survive in the aftermath of her older sister’s death.  There is nothing I didn’t like about this story and if there ever was a book I’d be pleading to have in a class set,  it is this one.  A finely crafted story that is as beautiful as it is poignant, The Protected is suited to students in grade 9-10 for shared reading or, for older middle school students and senior school students through to year 12.

Runner-Up “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”

Another book that I thoroughly appreciated was Zana Fraillon’s No Stars to Wish On.  Published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.No Stars to Wish On Fraillon’s story is told through the innocent eyes of 6 year old Jack, who is forcibly “removed” from his family and forced into a foster home as a Ward of the State.  In gorgeous prose we follow his mistreatment at the hands of the cruel Sisters and dare to hope that he will finally reunite with his family.  No Stars to Wish Upon is a uniquely Australian story that explores a dark episode in our history.  It is deceptively simple, however, the depths of its themes (and the darkness of the content) place it firmly within the Middle years.  I would have no hesitation in using it at year 9 as a shared text, for senior students in an independent reading program,  or as an extension text for independent reading by advanced readers in the latter part of primary school.

“Boomerang Best Series of the Year 2014”

These Broken StarsWith so many series appearing on book shelves across the nation (and “virtually” across the world), I felt it might be useful to highlight the one I  found most captivating for the year of 2014.  The Starbound Trilogy, written by Aussie author Amie Kaufman and American Meagan Spooner secures the title this year.  These Broken Stars and This Shattered World explore the Science Fiction universe where all is not as it first seems.  Where many series tend to follow the same protagonist for each episode, The Starbound This Shattered WorldTrilogy operates within the same world but with a different setting and different protagonist (the previous key characters seem to come back for cameo roles only).  For this alone I applaud the series, since each book will work as a stand alone book too!!!  I would not use this series as a class text (it is too long), however it is something to  share with your avid readers who are always looking for the next big thing.  This is it, bring on the film production!

That’s it for 2014.  If you like what you read please go back and read my longer reviews via the hyperlinks above.

by Tanya Grech Welden

“The Protected” by Claire Zorn, University of Queensland Press (2014)

Claire Zorn

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister.  Then the gap will close and I will pass her.  I will get older.  But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.  She will always have a nose piercing and a long curly knot of dark hair.  She will always think The Cure is the greatest band of all time.  She will always have a red band of sunburn on her lower back from our last beach holiday.

Forever. (p.1)

Every now and then you pick up a book and from the very first sentence you tingle.  Claire Zorn’s new book “The Protected” did just that and more.  Zorn reminded me what it was like to be an adolescent.  Through her eyes I was taken back to my own first day of high school.  I felt again the hopeful anticipation, the confusion and the pain of rejection.   When we meet 15 year old Hannah she is living a nightmare in the aftermath of her sister Katie’s tragic death.  Her parents, understandably are drowning in a sea of depression and despair and are consequently absent from her emotionally.  Instead, she is passed from one psychologist to another in an effort to help her to come to terms with the unthinkable.  However, Hannah’s problems run even deeper than first appears.  Hannah, the victim of particularly insidious bullying, was broken long before this.  Alienated at school and living in a mausoleum to her sister, a tiny glimmer of hope appears in the form of the new boy at school Josh, leaving Hannah to decide if she can trust him.

Beautifully crafted, Zorn’s prose shimmers as she takes her reader on a journey to a very dark place.  This text is appropriate for shared study with students in year 9 or 10, although teachers need to proceed with caution as this novel will undoubtedly evoke a strong emotional response from many students.  However, there is a richness of discussion to be had if you are brave enough to take it on.  “The Protected” explores a range of themes including the death of a young person and the impact on families and communities, the complexity of sibling relationships, the volatility of friendships and the devastating and long lasting psychological impact of bullying.

As a secondary teacher for 15 years I have taught a lot of Hannahs. I have been the one there to pick up the pieces and try to fight the war in a battle always waged just outside my earshot and often outside my control.  Unfortunately, I have also taught too many Katies; brilliant and vivacious souls that are taken from this earth too soon only to leave families and the broader community bewildered and asking why?  Some books ache, and yet “The Protected” did more than ache, it ground my heart to dust.  An outstanding work of fiction that deserves to be shared profusely and talked about.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

**UQP provided me with a free review copy for this book.  I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.***

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